Who are you? We’re Wigan

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Bernard Ramsdale*. The name deserves to be chanted, with approval, from every part of the Stadium of Light. Just when it seemed Wigan had “done a Stoke” and failed to produce a fan to preview Saturday’s game, Bernard stepped up once more. This is the same Bernard Ramsdale who has already given Salut! Sunderland one of the best opposition fans’ previews – maybe the best – all season. Thanks to a top man and true fan – and check out the Latics site he helps to run, Ye Olde Tree and Crown – even if he does think Cisse may be bound for the JJB before too long…

Since we met at the JJB, your season has gone slightly better than ours. Is Steve Bruce right to complain about lack of recognition???

He is definitely right, but on the plus side people have been ignoring us since we became the last ever team voted into the Football League in July 1978! It hasn’t done us any harm though has it? No other club in the Premier League can claim to have come from non league football to being top of the best league on the planet in less than 30 years, can they? ??Many people confuse Latics’ lack of recognition as being caused by the local rugby league team, but they are not the problem. They actually have many thousands less fans than the football club and the last time they won anything black and white photography was just beginning to take the world by storm! The real problem was pointed out by Sunderland fans having a pre match pint in and around Wigan town centre prior to our game earlier this season. ??They just could not believe the number of people walking around the town on match day in the colours of rival Premier League teams. That, as they saw first hand, is the real problem with our lack of recognition, or support.??

At least you’re recognised in Egypt. On holiday there, I came across lots of people who knew all about Wigan. Describe the importance of Zaki to your performances – and can you hang on to him?

??Its funny how many people have experienced this. I am sure I speak for the vast majority of Latics fans when I say that whenever I travelled abroad, I was often asked whereabouts in England I came from. The standard answer was always along the lines of stating that I came from Wigan, to which the standard reply was “where?”. I then explained that we were a small town near Manchester! Nowadays Wigan is a place of which most European and non European people are aware of and many Latics fans have had the wonderful experience of “Johnny Foreigner” actually knowing where Wigan is!??
As for Zaki, the goals have dried up and the official excuse given by Steve Bruce is that he is struggling to cope with the English winter. I personally think his head had been turned earlier in the season by stories of what he could earn at a “bigger” club and more likely than not a greedy agent. Three months ago his club, El Zamelek stated that they would sell to the highest bidder and some of the biggest names in world football were linked with him. The bidding had started at around the 10 million pounds mark, and this was way out of our league. However, the interest has dried up, but it still looks unlikely that he will be at the JJB Stadium next season. ??The signing of Hugo Rodallega Martinez and a supposedly done deal for Santos Laguna striker Cristian Benitez will leave Zaki surplus to requirements next season. I don’t know whether or not this is news in Sunderland, but it looks as though Steve Bruce may also be willing to renew his attempts to sign Djibril Cisse as the Stadium of Light board is stalling over making his loan deal from Marseille permanent. That said, if El Zamalek brings the price down to a more realistic one for the popular Zaki, you never say no, do you? ??Apart from him, who have been the keys to Wigan’s season to date??? I have to stifle a quite ironic giggle to myself here, because the answer to your question lies at Villa Park and White Hart Lane. The lack of goals since Emile Heskey left the club is as obvious as a Newcastle United fan’s over-inflated ego! Emile’s hard work and laying on of goals for others has been sorely missed, whilst Wilson Palacios’s departure for a club record fee of 14 million pounds has also left a big hole with regards to our midfield.?? Another key to our success has been Titus Bramble, who according to official statistics is currently one of best central defender in the Premier League. Like Emile Heskey before him, I think the pressure of playing for a club like Wigan Athletic has benefited him with regards to restoring his shattered confidence cause by those supposedly all knowing “best fans in the world” over at St James’ Park. Given his current form, and the Barcodes’ imminent relegation, it looks as though Titus may very well have the last laugh.?? Luis Antonio Valencia out on the right wing has also been influential but his form has dipped since a mooted 20 million pounds move to Manchester United (or Real Madrid) is on the cards in the summer.


??How high do you see yourselves finishing, and where will Sunderland end up?
??

The last time you asked me this question I stated, “I think that Sunderland, like Wigan, can quite easily compete among the middle order of the Premier League. By that, I mean that both clubs can forget about looking behind them at the relegation trap door and instead plan for a sustained attempt at breaking into the top 10. Hand on heart, I can see Sunderland finishing in a higher position than Wigan, but there will only be a few places in it. Sticking my neck out, I would guess that Sunderland can finish as high as 10th, with Latics placed handily in 12th place. “??I haven’t been too bad a judge have I? Should Latics pick up the three points on offer on Saturday I would reverse the quoted league positions, failing that I will be extremely happy should my original predictions come true!


??What did you make of Roy Keane’s departure from SAFC???

Reading between the lines, Roy must have felt for some time that he had taken the club as far as he could. I am not privy to knowing the true facts of the home supporters allegedly turning on their manager, but Roy would certainly not have put up with it. As an outsider looking in, I feel that the Sunderland supporters should thank Roy for what he did for the club, but it is now time for the fans to back Ricky Sbragia as results since he took over the managerial duties have improved markedly.


??JJB or Springfield Park? Any nostalgia for the old ground???

Springfield Park will stay in the hearts of all the supporters who ever stepped foot in it. Should you believe every fan of the club who now claim to have supported the Latics at Springfield Park, we must have been playing to full houses, week in and week out! In truth, they were dreadful, dark days, especially in the early 90s, but every single supporter developed a siege mentality, suffering many jibes and hurtful comments from the rival rugby league club, the former chairman of which was especially disrespectful for more than a quarter of a century. HE IS NOW ON THE WIGAN ATHLETIC BOARD!??
Springfield Park gradually had its capacity cut by a local council who could not care less whether Latics died or not. This is the same council who, overnight, and for one game only, boosted the rugby league club’s capacity to double what it should have been! This is what the club was up against during the Springfield Park days. During the last season at the ground the capacity was less than 6,500 and the move to a bigger better stadium was needed and since then the club has never looked back. All the success since relocation is all well and good, but those days at Springfield Park will live with me, and a few thousand more die hard fans for ever.??


Have you been to the Stadium of Light? If so, what did you make of it – or, if applicable (ie you being old enough!), Roker Park???

I have been to the Stadium of Light just once and that was in our first season in the top flight. The ground is very impressive and can be quite intimidating to clubs like Wigan. Thankfully, on that day the ground had only 30,000 people in it and it wasn’t quite as “scary” as it could have been. It helped that Henri Camara scored a superb match winning goal with just eight minutes of the game gone. Myself and indeed the team, only visited Roker Park once (Oct 1987) and in front of a crowd of around 14,000 the legend that is Paul Jewell scored a consolation goal in a horrendous 4-1 defeat. It wasn’t the result that was horrendous though, it was the fact that our central defender, Alex Cribley, injured his ankle when tackling Gary Owers to prevent a Sunderland goal after just seven minutes of the game had elapsed. The injury was so severe that it ended his career.
Sunderland reminds me a lot of Wigan; it strikes me as very much a working class place, as is Wigan. On the few occasions that I have been in the company of Sunderland supporters I have found them more or less at my level, ie no airs and graces and ready for a bit of drinking and banter! Mind you their stories of their amazingly loyal 100,000 fellow fans were quoted from tales they’d heard from the Brothers Grimm, in that it is a fairy tale. Funnily enough there is another team in Wigan that has also heard the same tales. Both Mackems and Klumps have heard them so often that they actually believe them!

What is the best you can realistically expect from the Latics? Are top honours out of bounds to all but an elite few???

Wigan Athletic has proved to all and sundry that anything is possible in football. If you had told me 12 years ago that Latics would have become an established “middle order” team in the Premier League, I would have immediately ordered a straightjacket for you and put you in a rubber room! That said, I do agree that top European honours do appear to be totally out of the question for clubs like mine. I suppose the next target for a club like Latics is qualification for the new Europa League that is set to replace the UEFA Cup competition next year. I realise that this is still a dream, but in football you have got have those haven’t you? Otherwise, what’s the point???


What is the worst refereeing decision to affect you this season – and have Wigan benefited from any equally bad decision/s in your favour?
??

I am of the opinion that refereeing decisions that go for or against you do even themselves out over any given league campaign. So far this season I would think it is fair to say that the referee during our league game at Anfield won the game for Liverpool. With time running out for the big boys and Latics well and truly slapping their arses all over the pitch the referee decided to send off our best player and the rest as they say, is history.??
As for referees actually “giving” Latics anything, what are you on, and can I have some???


Who will be the Premier League champions, win the FA Cup and the Champions League???

The Premier League title looks set to be bound for Manchester United. Given their current blistering run of form it is probably easier to sell sand to the owners of Manchester City than bet against “Manyoo”. As for the FA Cup, I have a sneaking suspicion that Everton may well have their names written on it this season. The other half of Merseyside may well have to settle for the Champions League title, for which they’ll probably sack their manager!


And who is destined for the drop?
??

West Bromwich Albion already looked doomed and Hull City may very well follow them back the Championship. I also think one established Premier League is destined to drop this season and I’m sure my choice of Newcastle United will not have hurt the feelings of anybody reading this. Should any Barcode be reading this, especially one from the pathetically sad “Newcastle Mad” syndicated website, who regularly take swipes at Wigan Athletic, go and complain to somebody who actually gives a monkey’s!??


Club v country. Who wins for you, and why???

Wigan Athletic mean far more to me than the exploits of the national team. Fabio Cappello is prepared to cast his net a lot wider than previous England managers though when it comes to selecting players and this can only be a good thing. We need players playing for England because of a passion, not an ego.


??What will be the score on Saturday? Will you be there?

??This one has draw written all over it. More than likely it will be goalless as well! Personal circumstances will see me elsewhere in Britain, but the amazing world of WiFi will ensure that I will be kept fully up to date on the happenings in the North East!


??* Bernard Ramsdale on Bernard Ramsdale:

I am currently a foster carer to a youth with learning disabilities. I have supported the club ever since I could walk basically. My father took me to both Springfield Park and the home of the local rugby league club as a youngster, fully expecting me to become a follower of the Klumps. Nothing could sway me from my fortnightly exercise of running around an empty stadium though whilst occasionally casting glances at the blue shirted players who I grew to love. The alternative was hanging around a minority sports ground situated, quite appropriately, next to a scrap yard, the contents of which were far more interesting than watching loads of 18 stone men with funny balls plodding around on a slag heap!

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3 thoughts on “Who are you? We’re Wigan”

  1. It is not really a matter of affording the player. The problem is that Zaki hasn’t scored this winter. A club like Wigan can not afford to pay out money like that on a player who goes AWOL when Jack Frost shows his face!
    Cisse though can and does score at this level in the months of December, January and February and has done so for several years. Plus, he will be better supported by better players at the JJB Stadium who will provide the ammunition he clearly is not getting at The Stadium of Light.!
    The problem we have got, as always, is enticing a player like that to come to Wigan.
    However, Emile Heskey, Wilson Palacios and now Titus Bramble haven’t done too badly and I hope that other quality players will take note of that when any offer from Wigan Athletic comes their way.

  2. Really nice article Bernard from someone who is clearly a proper fan.
    If you can’t afford Zaki then I wonder how come you think Wigan can afford Cisse?

  3. Well said Bernard,, the word fan was made to describe you..
    I truly like sunderland as a club who do things right and wish you all the best after next Saturday !!

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